Tattoos in retreat


Every picture tells a story. But when the pictures are tattoos, not only traditional-minded parents are concerned. The U.S. Army is too.

The Army is about to issue strict new rules governing tattoos, grooming, and uniforms. In visits to soldiers in Afghanistan, Sgt. Maj. Raymond Chandler said new recruits won’t be allowed to have tattoos that show below the elbows and knees or above the neckline.

Current soldiers won’t be affected, with one exception: All soldiers will be barred from having tattoos that are racist, sexist, or extremist. Soldiers will be required to pay for the removal of any tattoo that violates the policy.

Tattoos are common for civilians and have long been favored by warriors. But the Army takes pains to require soldiers to look smart on the parade ground, with short hair, polished boots, and pressed uniforms. A tatty tat can ruin that look in the time it takes to salute.

The new rules, expected to take effect in 30 to 60 days, apply only to the Army; other branches of the military have their own standards. But for some parents, the rules will provide another reason for their kids not to get tattoos.